Published on April 11th, 2011 | by Flight Centre Staff0
The History Behind Edinburgh, Scotland
Our friend Kathy Trithardt was a tour guide in Scotland for a year and has an impressive knowledge of this beautiful country; in particular Edinburgh. She shares with us her favourite places and the historic stories behind them:
If you have ever fancied grabbing a pint with instant mates, or having a wee dram, Edinburgh is the top destination to do so! Not only does it have a castle on top of a volcano (the oldest building dating back to 1120!) but it has some of the friendliest people, interesting destinations and amazing festivals.
Edinburgh is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Glasgow and features such sites as Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Edinburgh Castle and The Stone of Destiny – a story I love to tell.
There are two things in Edinburgh that I highly recommend you experience when you’re there:
Firing of the O’Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle:
This happens every day except for Christmas, Good Friday and Sundays at 1pm. It was originally done to let the ships in the Firth of Forth know the time, and they did it at 1pm instead of 12pm because then they only had to fire once (and the Scots are known for being thrifty). Nowadays, it mostly scares the crap out of tourists and lets everyone in Princes’ Street Gardens know it is time for lunch.
The Stone of Destiny:
No one knows where the stone came from, exactly, but we do know it’s been used as the Coronation Stone for the Scottish Kings since 847, first used by Kenneth Mac Alpin. Aside from having an epic name, it also has a prophecy – “wherever the Stone doth lie, there the Scots shall rule.”
Whenever a new King or Queen would have a coronation, it would be while sitting on top of that stone. That was up until 1296, when King Edward I (yes, the bad guy in Braveheart) stole the Stone from Scone, it’s original resting place and lugged it back down to England. He then placed it underneath the English thrown as a symbol of ruling over Scotland.
In 1320 when Robert the Bruce fought for Scottish Independence, he wrote the Declaration of Arbroath and sent it to the Pope. This letter contained famous words, “…for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” Bruce sent this to the Pope, petitioning for the return of their beloved Stone. In 1328, a treaty was signed that guaranteed the return of the Stone from the English to the Scottish.
It was promptly returned in 1996.
However, it made a brief, illegal visit in the 1950’s when four students from Glasgow University, decided it was a complete travesty that the most important Scottish artifact was in London – so they decided to steal it.
Shortly after doing so, one of them lost heir grip and it went crashing to the floor, splitting into two pieces. How would you feel if you came to liberate the most important artifact in your nation’s history and you broke it? To sneak it through the border, they removed the passenger seat in the car, put a jacket over it in a vaguely seat-like fashion and sat on it all the way back to Scotland.
The Stone mason fixed it (I’ve seen the craftsmanship myself, and must say he did an excellent job) and for the next while the Stone was hidden in various establishments across Glasgow. It was the special guest at many secret parties. I have even met a seemingly insane old man who roams the Royal Mile in Edinburgh who claims that in 1951 he sat upon the Stone at a party and dubbed himself the King of Scotland.
But Hamilton and his friends didn’t steal the Stone for themselves – they stole it as a sign of how Scotland needed to be independent. So they eventually left the Stone at the Chapel at Arbroath, where Robert the Bruce signed his famous Declaration, and within 24 hours the Stone was returned to London.
But, fear not, as I did say it returned in 1996. This was an election year, and John Major, the PM at the time, really wanted votes but wasn’t popular with the Scots. He decided to return the Stone to Scotland in a ploy to earn more Scottish votes. John Major still lost the election. He didn’t win a single seat in Scotland. Tony Blair won that year, as he promised not a symbol of independence, but the real thing. He granted the Scots a devolved parliament three years later, which allowed them say over their internal affairs. London still controls taxes and military, but this is a step in the right direction if you remember the prophecy – “wherever the Stone doth lie, there the Scots shall rule.” Three years after the Stone returned, the Scots were ruling themselves again.
There is much political debate over Scotland separating from the rest of the UK – some for it, some against it. However, in 320 million years, Scotland will separate for good – geographically. Scotland and England are on two different tectonic plates, and by that time they will shift apart, forming the Scottish Channel, and the Scots can stand on their side and wave goodbye to England – or make whatever hand gestures they see fit.
Edinburgh, Scotland is highlighted on the Flight Centre map.
Scotland’s rich traditions can be best seen over the summer months at the cutting-edge Edinburgh festival or at one of the many, more low-key, highland games. Whether visiting for fishing, stalking, sailing or hiking, Scotland is a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. Thinking about a trip soon? We’ve got Europe on sale! Contact your closest agent to find out more.